On a rainy afternoon last week, Trish, Amy, and I drove into San Francisco for an exclusive culinary tour hosted by Negra Modelo. We started at a “Mexica-tessen,” where the owners welcomed us into the kitchen to watch ladies cook hand-flattened tortillas made from the freshest, most flavorful masa. They simply pulled off a ball of the dough, pat-pat-patted it thin, and laid it down on the griddle to bake.
While we stared, a gentleman wheeled over a cart full of ingredients. He cleared off a space on the grill before demonstrating how to cook their famous huarache. It looked like two elongated tortillas filled with beans and cheese, then topped with fresh cabbage, salsa, queso fresco, and cilantro. For the carnivores, he also threw on juicy tidbits of steak.
Trish and I split one, and my goodness… You guys know how much I love dessert, but that savory dish was my favorite thing of the entire day! Hot, cheesy, salty, spicy… And oh so addictive. I want to order one every time I ever visit the city!
Next, we walked a few blocks down to a butcher shop. The owner, an older gentleman, captivated us with his story of “flap meat.” Have you ever tried this cut of beef? Although I can’t tell the tale nearly as well as that sweet man, he basically explained how here in the US, we never used to separate that part of the cow. It was hidden underneath fat and tissue, so back in the ’70s, butchers tossed it aside for ground beef.
However, his father was a butcher in Mexico, so this man knew that he could cut away those layers to reveal the meat below, which Mexican cuisine used to make carne asada. When he went to the factory and began flapping his arms up and down to strip away the fat, someone asked him what he was doing and the name of the cut. Because he didn’t know how to translate the Spanish word, he simply called it “flap meat” because of his hand motions, and the name stuck!
The third stop on our tour took us to a bakery, and Amy, Trish, and I immediately went wild. After the owner’s son walked us through the names and fillings of the pastries, we each grabbed a tray and loaded it up with as many treats as we could fit! Cheesecake, empanadas, cookies, scone sandwiches, jelly rolls, croissants and spirals… We must have walked out with one of everything. And yes, I sampled all 7 pastries in my bag as soon as I got home!
But before that drive back, our tour ended with a trolley ride through the streets of San Francisco over to a swanky restaurant. We nibbled on flavorful appetizers, the perfect complements to Negra Modelo, like saucy tortas and halibut tacos. (I decided that all fish tacos needed Brussels sprout chips after my first bite!)
Throughout the evening, we bloggers took turns at the Twitter vending machine (yes, that really exists!) winning various prizes like beanies, customized cutting boards, and Negra Modelo beer glasses, while Chef Rick Bayless occasionally shared tips about a variety of ingredients used in Mexican cuisine. However, when he mentioned his restaurant’s chocolate chile Negra Modelo ice cream, I immediately knew that I wanted to make my own chocolate dessert with the beer, so I created these Malty Chocolate Beer Cupcakes!
They start out with my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (the one readers have proclaimed is better than a bakery’s!). It’s extremely rich, incredibly decadent, yet still unbelievably healthy. I substituted Negra Modelo in place of the milk and decreased the sugar by just a touch because of the sweetness of the beer.
If you take a little sample of the batter, you’ll taste the beer’s tangy flavor on your tongue at the end. Most of the alcohol bakes off in the oven, but you can still detect that tiny tang and subtle hint of caramel in the finished cupcakes.
Note: Negra Modelo is made by slow roasting the malts, which brings out their sweeter, almost caramel-like notes. It’s classified as a Munich Dunkel and isn’t quite as bitter as other beers, so it’s perfect for baking into desserts and treats!
Because low fat cupcakes tend to stick to paper liners like superglue, make sure you spray the liners twice before filling them with batter. If you forget and only spray once, that’s okay! Simply seal the baked cupcakes inside of an airtight container for a day, and that’ll help release the liners from the cake.
To complement the rich chocolate, I mixed up my favorite light and creamy vanilla frosting. It’s one of the simplest you’ll ever make! Just Greek yogurt, instant pudding, and sweetener. The instant pudding thickens the yogurt, and after chilling, it has the same consistency as regular buttercream but none of the raw powdered sugar taste. I’ve actually eaten a bowl of the leftover frosting with a spoon… For breakfast!
To finish the cupcakes, add a little drizzle of chocolate syrup and a malted milk ball candy on top. It brings out the malty flavors in the cupcakes! For the most elegant presentation, drizzle the syrup in a spiral, starting at the tip of the frosting then circling around and around. Don’t worry about making a mess; that’s half the fun!
My parents stopped by on their way home from their cabin this weekend, and I sent along one of these Malty Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with them. My dad loves beer and even used to brew his own, but my mom… Well, she generally prefers her chai lattes! However, she loved the cupcake’s richness and sweet tang, and she and Dad nearly contemplated driving back up just for more!
That’s the best compliment ever.
*This post was sponsored by Negra Modelo. As always, all opinions, text, photographs, and recipe are my own.